Having suggested that Zhuangzi espouses a form of organic naturalistic mysticism, we feel oblige to also assert that his ultimate appeal is to a kind of pragmatic mysticism, one that does not rest on the truth of its imagined foci, an innate substantive “true nature” or a supposed Totality, but rather on the positive outcomes to be realized irrespective of the actual nature of unknowable reality. The benefits of imagining oneself as united with the Totality do not require that there be any such thing or that such a unity actually takes place. Were it so, this would again be an essentially religious endeavor. It would require belief, a dependence on the undependable. In this Zhuangzi anticipated ‘pataphysics, “the science of imaginary solutions”, by two and a half millennia. Zhuangzi’s mysticism is entirely psychological and makes no appeal to substantive realities.


We will take this [our innate desire and capacity for uniting with the world] as our fundamental assumption when attempting to understand spirituality in a “positive”, that is, ontological sense. Our justification for suggesting any “positive” ontology in Zhuangzi rests in his appeal to what is actually rooted in our phenomenological experience, not in idealist presuppositions that posit a “spirit” or “soul”. It is an aspect of who we are as understood from our actual experience. The 23rd chapter of the Zhuangzi which we take as interpretive of Zhuangzi, exhorts: “Let your body be moved only by the totality of things. Let your mind spring from its rootedness in the unthinking parts of yourself” (Ziporyn, p 99). Zhuangzi essentially sees all things as mystery in that reason is incapable of truly understanding or experiencing them. This requires the exercise of another faculty, what amounts to a kind of mysticism. Mystery calls for mystery-ing—entering into and becoming that mystery oneself. This mysticism, this spirituality, is exercised bi-directionally, though the mystery in one. We ourselves are that mystery and thus we are exhorted to connect with our psychological experience directly, mystically. This is the source of our self-affirmation and our spontaneity. We are also exhorted to connect with all things, with the Totality, in a similar manner: The sage “uses his mind to discover its limits and uses the limits of mind to cultivate a mind that is constant in unity with flux” (5). We will later attempt to make clear the relevance of this form of naturalistic mysticism to a philosophy for environmental engagement.